Kamuzu Academy Classics Department

Greek and Latin, particularly Latin

On the opening of the Kamuzu Academy in 1981, H. E. the Life President of the Republic of Malawi the Ngwazi Dr. H. Kamuzu Banda declared that ‘the Academy was established, essentially and primarily, for Classical education, a nursery for Classical scholars’. In his peroration, the Ngwazi placed Classical education at his model school over all other disciplines: 'Any student who is not interested in Classical education must not come here.'


The Ngwazi stands in a long line of Statesmen who have attached similar importance to the study of the Greek and Latin Classics. Sir Winston Churchill, for example, who was, to his great regret, but a mediocre Classic when he was a pupil at Harrow School, writes, in his autobiography, of his ideal education, that '[he] would make them all learn English: and then [he] would let the clever ones learn Latin as an honour, and Greek as a treat.'


When Sir Winston Churchill was at Harrow, the English Classical tradition had reached its high-water mark, as token not only of intellectual formation but also of social advancement. Earlier in the century, Thomas Gaisford, Dean of Christ Church and Regius Professor of Divinity in the University of Oxford (1779 – 1855), had famously urged: 'Nor can I do better, in conclusion, than impress upon you the study of Greek literature, which not only elevates above the vulgar herd but leads not infrequently to positions of considerable emolument.'


The Ngwazi would have observed and admired the English Classical tradition during his long years of study and work in America and England; and he would have been impressed by the fact that Nyasaland, like most British colonies, was administered at all levels by graduates of the Classics Faculties of the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge. Moreover, the Ngwazi’s private Library, which is preserved at Nguru-ya-Nawambe Palace, stands as monument to his own Classical learning: Julius Caesar, Statesman and architect of the Roman Empire, was an especial inspiration, and it is related that the Ngwazi could quote Caesar at length from memory.


In passing we may note that Mr. Boris Johnson, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom since 2019 and Sir Winston Churchill's biographer, is an unabashed Oxford Classicist. His brother Leo is depicted visiting Kamuzu Academy in "The Eton of Africa" between the Kamuzu of England and Oxford (also for Classics).


It is testament to the Ngwazi’s extraordinary vision that he wished to allow to the flower of Malawian youth the great privilege and honour of participation in this Classical tradition.